Spring is a good time to give your garden an honest appraisal. Gardens need continual re-evaluation and it is important to breathe new life into a garden at regular intervals. Particularly, in a small garden every plant has to be right for the space.
How to do it? Try and look at the garden with fresh, critical eyes.
- It is easy to live with and tolerate the shrub/tree that has out-grown its space, that is competing with neighbouring plants and that is threatening to take over or that has obscured a view; or the plant that needs to be cut back several times a year to prevent it taking over but that then doesn’t flower or have a good natural shape.
- It is also easy to put up with a sickly, dying plant, or a plant whose appearance is annually ruined by pests or diseases; a plant that one is nervous of removing but that actually undermines the appearance of that part of the garden.
- Too many shrubs or trees means that the soil is full of demanding roots which will then compete with perennials and bulbs, and lessen their ability to put on a good display.
- It is also easy to allow shrubs to all reach the same height, and then keep them pruned to that height, creating a hedge like appearance or clump, without movement and contrast. Time to open up these spaces!
When a shrub/tree is removed, or substantially pruned (and some plants respond to hard pruning better than others) you would be amazed what a difference it can make. It creates light and space, shifting focus onto the surrounding plants that are in better shape. Neighbouring plants will benefit from the lack of competition for light and nutrients and are likely to increase in vigour. It may also create enough room for a new plant or two, to lift the border and give it a fresh look.
Lifting the canopy of a tree or shrub can also have a dramatic effect, lightening the look of the border, and creating space for contrasting smaller, ground-covering plants beneath. Adding a few extra plants, with interesting foliage, can help lift the gloom of a dry, shaded area: a variegated plant, or plant with bright green, dissected foliage, will introduce light and interest to that hitherto dull spot.
So do take a look at the structure in your garden and be brave; and ask yourself what you could change or improve to give your garden a new sense of inspiration, freshness and style.
Anne Fraser and Caroline Streets
07729 835988 and 07930 876348